Friday, July 27, 2007

That darn Joker is at it again! UPDATED -- The Aftermath!!!

Well, the teaser trailer's not that far off (in fact, footage from the ComiCon presentation's been popping up periodically on YouTube), but the Joker's got a mission for the folks out at SDCC...
The trail begins at THIS SITE...
So, what do you see there? Well, the old Uncle Sam recruiting poster...just, um...enhanced...

...and there are some instructions scrawled underneath...

...and even a satellite photo if you can't figure out where you're headed...

How do I know it's SDCC? Well, the map coordinates are kinda spot on...

Oddly enough, if you look it up on Google Earth, there's even a photograph someone uploaded at the EXACT SPOT everyone's supposed to meet. So, here's what you're looking for (if you're reading this blog and in San Diego)...

I'm sure SOMEONE out there will post something about the fun and games tomorrow...

So, the event WAS at ComiCon (big surprise there), and you can find information about it on the whysoserious site.

Or, if you're lazy, you can go directly to

The Wannabes



to see more of the fun.

And, as an added bonus, the teaser trailer went live today, as well (on the whysoserious site...what, you thought you could get away from it?). It's not nearly as mindblowing as the teaser for Batman Begins, but this one's just a taste...and we've got a full year before we see the finished product...

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Goodbye, Harry Potter...

You's over.
Yeah, we've got two more movies to wait for. But, it's over.
I was confronted with exactly this feeling after watching Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. Something beloved is finished. We're not getting any more. Strangely, I never feel this way about comic cancellations, but with book and movie series I get a little twinge of sadness.
There aren't any more Harry Potter books forthcoming. And while I enjoyed the hell out of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, I'm saddened that I finished it so fast.
I picked the book up last night at the big Borders event. There were about 900 people there, some in costume, some dorks, some kids, some moms, some of pretty much everyone. I people watched for a good long time, enjoyed the atmosphere, and chatted with all the Borders folk I know. And it occurred to me as I was walking up to the store that I was whistling John Williams' "Hedwig's Theme". So, officially count myself as a Potter dork.
No, I wasn't in costume. Shut up.
I went home after a couple hours of people watching, sat down and read for a few minutes before I realized that it was already late and I wasn't gonna finish the book that night.
When I woke up, I was even more reluctant to dive in. Two hours got me halfway through the book before I set off to have fun with my day. Too fast. Needed a break.
I meandered around town, wandered, talked to people, had lunch, watched Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix again, and generally avoided all but the most perfunctory occasional reading. People kept asking how it was when they saw I was carrying the book with me.
Chances are, you don't give a crap what I say, you're either gonna read the book or you won't. At this point, it's a culturual thing. But let me tell you, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is not only a worthy conclusion to the series, it's quite possibly the best book in the series.
After the events of his sixth year at Hogwarts, Harry and his friends have decided to skip their final year in favor of a dangerous quest to find all of Voldemort's horcruxes (objects he's fragmented his soul into) and stop his reign of terror once and for all.
Where at times in the last two books, I felt that Rowling was kinda losing the way, the final volume not only nails the dismount, it shows that the whole routine was pretty close to flawless. There's a ton of loose ends that get cleared up. There's actually a sense of finality to the proceedings. Things are coming to a close and everyone knows it.
Where some of the previous volumes got very internalized and talky, this book is almost wall-to-wall action. From the opening ambush to the final fatal battle, you're on the edge of your seat, flipping pages like crazy.
The body count is DEVASTATING. The stakes are high, and not everyone makes it out in one piece (A few fan favorites might be on the butcher's bill, too. Don't get too attached to ANYONE.). Damn near every minor character in the series gets a hero moment where they get to shine.
That's all I'm telling you about the plot. No spoilers. No hints. Nuts to the damn book.
I just don't know what in the world they can cut out to make this movie-length. They might finally have to split the book in half. It's just huge and involving and there's less fat available to edit out.
That's about what we have left at this point. The movies. And then it really is over.
Much as I'm saddened by that prospect, I'm glad that people forced me to read the first couple of books. I've had a great time with them. And I'm pleased as punch with how it turned out. Sure, I'd like it to go forever, but that's not quite how life works, now is it?
Harry and Ron and Hermione have been my friends for the last four years, and I'm sad to know I'll never hear from them again. But I think I'm better off having read their exploits. In a few years' time, I look forward to revisiting their adventures at Hogwarts. Until then, well, it's time to look for something else to get attached to.
Thanks, JK. You've filled another Muggle with joy. Now, write something new and fun. Maybe we'll all be hooked again.

Monday, July 09, 2007

My ramblings on Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

What to say about Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix?
Well, they cut a lot out. But, the book was 896 pages. To cover it fully, with every detail intact, would take days. At two hours and 18 minutes, they've pared the story down to its bare bones, trading internal monologue and political maneuvering and teen romance for action.
We lose a lot of character beats for supporting characters as well. This means very little at all of Tonks, only a few moments with Luna Lovegood and all of Ron Weasley's big moments disappear with the Quidditch (there's broom flying aplenty, but none for the sake of the game in the film). Harry and Cho's romance is whittled down to a handful of fleeting moments that doesn't even whet your appetite.
If that's going to spoil your appreciation of the fifth film in the Harry Potter franchise, don't even bother going. Keep to your books and appreciate them for what they are. You're likely never going to be happy with the films, anyway.
If you're looking for one of the most fast-paced films in the franchise (nearly dizzyingly so) or some harrowing wizard-on-wizard combat? Well, they've got your number exactly.
David Yates, the director of this fifth film in the continuing adventures of Harry Potter, has a background in British television. He's never helmed a production like this. He's more than up to the task, keeping things lean and focussing the film almost entirely on Harry. He is our hero, after all. That makes the film more like a typical American film than the previous chapters, but it's not like they're ever going to win converts to the series at this point. You're either watching them or you aren't.

The film starts out with Harry at his lowest point. Cedric Diggory is dead. Harry feels responsible. He's isolated once again from the wizarding world and he feels miserable. He's tortured mercilessly by his cousin Dudley and his crew (Dudley now sporting the costume of a chav and looking much the worse for it). Bad things happen, and Harry is whisked away from Privet Drive by the Order of the Phoenix (waste no time in getting that title in!).
Harry's reunited with his friends and presented with a new nemesis: the Ministry of Magic themselves. Turns out that Harry's claims of the return of Voldemort aren't believed by the folks at the top, and they'll stop at nothing to squash out any word of the return of He Who Must Not Be Named.
In pursuit of that, the Ministry forces Dumbledore to accept a new teacher at Hogwarts. Dolores Umbridge, as brought to shocking pink life by Imelda Staunton, is every bit as iron, unbending and unflinchingly evil as she was on the written page. But there's a bit of humanity to the teensy despot now. I almost felt sorry for her. (Damn you and your acting skills, Imelda Staunton!)
Umbridge starts tightening her fist, enforcing the Ministry's new draconian vision. And that vision doesn't include learning any sort of defense against the Dark Arts (Why would anyone need to defend themselves? Rubbish idea, if you ask me). The students take it upon themselves to have a secret class, with Harry teaching what he's learned from fighting for his life over the last four years.
It's with Dumbledore's Army that the film misses out on some of its best potential material. However, we do end up with a training montage, and that has to mean something, right? Can't have an action movie without a montage, I say.
The kids get pretty darn good at their combat spellcraft, and that's a good thing because we're whisked into the finale very, very quickly.
How's the finale? Well, it's big. Really darn big. The Death Eaters really see action this time (the bulk of their attack on the Quidditch World Cup cut out of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire), fighting both the D.A. kids and the Order of the Phoenix. And the results are more intense than anything in the series thus far (and earning the film a PG-13 rating).

What's good?
Hmmm. Well, every moment that Gary Oldman, Alan Rickman or Maggie Smith is on screen, to be sure. They've brought their A games, and consequently, they raise the bar for the rest of the cast, who seem more than adequate to keep up. Staunton as Umbridge, of course. She's so close to how I envisioned the character in the book that she made my flesh crawl. She's the perfect combination of malevolent menace and sickeningly proper ettiquette. I really wish we saw more of Michael Gambon as Dumbledore, but he's damn near pushed out of the film until the end.
Jason Isaacs, of course. He's almost always great, though. Ralph Fiennes turns to subtlety to embody the ultimate evil of Lord Voldemort, not going over the top one wee bit. That's left to the batshit crazy Helena Bonham-Carter as Bellatrix Lestrange, who gets precious little screen time, but wrings gallons of madness out of her brief moments.
The kids are growing into fine little actors themselves, and Daniel Radcliffe shows signs that his career is going to continue long after he puts the Potter character to rest. Rupert Grint has already proven that, but gets so little time in this one. The budding Ron-Hermione romance is hinted at, but nothing else. Emma Watson also suffers from near-deletion. If she and Ron aren't right next to Harry, they're not in the movie. Evanna Lynch does a marvelous job with her few scenes as Looney Luna Lovegood. She's creepy and weird to the nth degree with seemingly little or no effort.
The humor. This is a really funny chapter in the series. And considering how dark and violent it gets, the humor is a welcome respite from the gloom that the series is delving into.
The effects work is generally good, though I found the centaurs and Grawp a wee bit cartoonish. The final fight is amazing, though. Throwing in visualizations was very necessary, and Yates and company managed to make the wizarding duels exciting and harrowing.

What's not so good?
Well, cutting out three quarters of the book. Duh.
You miss out on a lot of great character moments. "Weasley is our king." The twins' exit from the school (since they've NEVER had Peeves in the films, this was bound to be weaker for his loss). Harry's romantic confusion (though, in his credit, Radcliffe manages to convey some of that without the setup).
The flying scenes. Remember where I said the effects work was generally good? Well, the flying scenes look like they were shot before Star Wars and before Superman: The Movie. The compositing is sloppy -- not even TV quality by today's standards.

You don't need me to recommend the film to you. Either you're going to see it or you're not. You made that decision years ago. While stripped down to its bare bones, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix gets it all pretty close to right. The big moments are all there (including that dreaded third act death). It's just the little things that you end up missing.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Adam gets trapped by DEAD HEIST

Occasionally trouble just finds you.
Say, for instance, being linked to the entirety of Swirl Films upcoming release Dead Heist, written by Anghus Houvouras (Fearsome, 20 Funerals) and directed by Bo Webb (The Idea Guy. That shouldn't be too much trouble, right?
The film's as low-budget as low budget gets, yet still manages to get off an interesting shot or two. Sure, it's highly derivative, but it's also wackily original, too. A melange of dozens of familiar bank heist/vampire/zombie/shoot-em-up movies, the plot of Dead Heist isn't really all that serious about anything other than a body count.
Jackson (DJ Naylor) is a small-time thug and bodyguard who gets mixed up in a scheme with a bunch of low-rent gangsta never-will-be's to rob a bank in a small town.
Doing some preliminary scouting, Jackson meets this weird guy at the local surplus store who spews some weird shit about vampires and zombies. The weird dude is played by Big Daddy Kane, so you KNOW he's gonna end up 1) being right about the zompires (I'm copyrighting that term. I own it. Nobody else can use it.) and 2) kicking a whole lotta ass.
The wannabes are led by Ski (Brandon Hardin, who also was the extras casting director...ain't low budget films great like that?), a guy tougher than he's skinny. And he's one skinny emeffer. Ski gets the bright idea to take the bank a day early, when Jackson's scouting the town and casing the bank. They even manage to score two of the local deputies as hostages, including pretty Deputy Becky (Michelle Mims).
Things go wrong (Do any bank heists EVER go right???), the local po-po shows up and after night falls, so do the living dead. And then things just get messy.

The final verdict? Well, it's not a good film, but I don't think it was trying to be. It's fun, though, and that'll do most nights in front of the Tee-Vee. There's a lot to like in Dead Heist. It never takes itself seriously, but it's also not tonge-in-cheek or smarmily self-aware. This means the film can be violent as hell and even slightly scary while tossing in the occasional one-liner or sight gag.
The filmmaking shows a bit of promise. There are some neat shots, and a cool-as-hell sequence when the bank is finally stormed by a veritable army of the undead (which echoes a scene in this summer's 28 Weeks Later). The acting isn't necessarily award caliber, but that's not what you're looking for when you check out a low-budget flick most of the time, anyway. You're looking for blood, violence and a body count that you have to take your shoes off to tally up. Dead Heist has all that and a can of Krunk energy drink. No, really. There's Krunk Energy Drink in it. Who knew?
I'm sure when they pitched it, the filmmakers threw out names like From Dusk Til' Dawn and Dead Presidents. Not bad films to aspire to be, but Dead Heist doesn't quite have the budget or the talent to line up in the same ranks. Nothing wrong with that, though. Really. Josh Becker's Running Time is another deliciously low-budget affair that I had oodles of fun with on DVD. If you come with the intention of having a good time with this film, there's plenty to be had.